Food, Flowers and Forgeries – The Inimitable Markets of Hong Kong
Secreted in the shadows of Hong Kong’s shiny high-rises are the last bastions of markets the way they used to be; chockablock, charming, and messy enough to warrant you should never wear your best shoes. If you’re willing to throw yourself into the fray and get your hands dirty, you’re bound to find exactly what you want, and for the right price. Here’s a short guide to the best Hong Kong markets.
The street stalls of Hong Kong are awash with big designer names, but look a little closer and you’ll realize not everything is what it seems. Counterfeits are big business here, and the Ladies Market in Mong Kok is a veritable hotbed of all things not-quite-kosher. Here is the busiest of all Hong Kong shopping experiences and it’s essential you arrive in fighting form; eager to carve your own route through the solid mass of shoppers, sniff out the best bargain and get a good price for it. Fake handbags and watches here are particularly well-crafted, although of course we do not endorse your buying them.
Hong Kong’s wet markets – so called because the floors are constantly being cleansed of the muck and gore spilled onto them – show the city at its raw, occasionally gruesome best. Graham Street has been around for 160 years, but gradually more stalls are being relocated indoors, which means you should visit while it still looks how it does; a narrow street flanked on either side by rickety stalls hawking dry goods, meat, vegetables and seafood. Though Gage Street is a less-essential stop-off, it reeks of a yesteryear market, blood and guts spilling all over the floor, and chickens squawking their last frantic squawks. Fascinating to some, although vegetarians need not go. Temple Street may be a flea market at heart, but when dusk settles, it transforms into one of the finest locations for street food (vendors are known as dai pai dongs), notably excellent seafood, such as steamed whole fish, salt and pepper squid, and the ubiquitous fish balls. Hordes of locals sitting outside eating food washed down with bottles of Tsing Tao lager, prove this place to be the Real McCoy.
The precious green stone that is jade has been a part of Chinese culture since the Neolithic Period, and aside from its monetary value is considered to possess protective powers. Hong Kong’s Jade Market contains over 400 stalls, selling the stone in every incarnation you can imagine; rings, bracelets, carvings, pendants and more. Knowing what a bona fide piece of jade looks like is an art in its own right, but novice buyers can have their potential purchases evaluated at the Jade Plaza.
All Things Bright and Beautiful
Hong Kong’s most idiosyncratic, not to mention idyllic, market is Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. In this traditional Chinese-style garden are over 70 stalls owned by elderly bird fanciers, selling their songbirds which they house in beautifully-carved cages. Once you’ve waded through the dulcet sounds of birdsong, treat your nose by paying a visit to the neighboring Flower Market Road, a heavenly-scented collection of 50 flower shops from which you can buy all number of tropical blooms. The natural trilogy is completed at the Goldfish Market where you can ogle turtles, tarantulas, and of course, goldfish. It’s like a zoo, but free.